War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele


I read that the young Brig-Gen (ret’d) has been fined and demoted. two different charges, two court martials. he wears a suit and tie now. is pounding the pavement.

I cannot, will not pass judgement. I’ll only say that we all behave differently under stress. I watched men and women of all ranks squeezed through the fine mesh of war. some coped better than others with the stress that was purposely sent at them. the whole aim of training is to stress the troops beyond human measure with sleep dep., physical challenge, mental challenge, surprise, and even boredom, so that in theatre they know they can cope. the training also weeds out the weak ones. a Sgt. Maj I know said that they could watch and lose the ones that didn’t fit. it was a matter of survival.

personally, I found it very physically and emotionally stressful to be with the troops. I got sick every single time. no sleep, constant noise, dirt, deprivation, the smell of diesel. diesel. diesel. 24 hours a day/7 days a week. diesel. and even in A’stan I made the midnight walk to Role 1 in KAF to get help for a physical ailment I’d never experienced before. (thank you medic for fixing me so quickly).

and people behave in ways they’d never in ‘normal’ life. I remember visiting an Edmonton outdoor clothing store to purchase items for WWX (having just returned from a 2 week trip home from Suffield) and being frustrated by the slow service (it WASN’T slow but I felt it was in my impatience), and the disinterest of the staff (again I was wrong) and I actually swore and lost my temper with the clerk. the clerk said to me, lady I don’t get paid enough to take that kind of language from anyone. GOOD FOR HIM. I apologized.

the point is that I behaved in a totally uncharacteristic manner. hey, I’ve been on the other side of the counter (I put myself through university working in liquor stores etc.). and the way I behaved that day and other days was TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE and UNCHARACHTERISTIC.

in retrospect I know it was stress. stress at home (my poor family… oh ya, mom is away with the army roaring around the countryside in a LAV during live fire getting ready to go to a WAR ZONE) and stress going out into a real red zone for myself. not yellow, but RED.

now here’s the deal. to relieve that stress one bonds with those who are around you and with whom you’ve faced and will face danger. and I know from more than one commanding officer that command is very, very lonely. and it’s also intoxicating. a dangerous combo – stress, danger, intense bonding, and a heightened sense of self.

in all honesty, my experience was also intoxicating. doors opening figuratively and literally. a driver to pick me up and drop me off and call me Ma’am. a seat beside the Generals in the nightly briefings. fixers. (thanks Mac, thanks Capt. A, Capt. W, Capt. S, Capt. B, Capt. D, thanks darling Angel, over and over and over again). a helicopter. VIPs to meet. being designated a VIP, or in KAF, a VIP VIP. having all my creature needs looked after (even if it did mean IMPs!)…

I’m not making excuses for the Brig-Gen or anyone. we all have duties. responsibility. ethics and ideals.

but ultimately, we’re all human.

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The page you're reading contains a single diary entry entitled stress. It was posted here on July 22, 2011.


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